Six Denver CrossFit gyms dropping brand over CEO’s George Floyd remarks

Two local CrossFit owners, Jason Kelly and Leslie Friedman, are both dropping the “CrossFit” name.

After nearly 10 years as a CrossFit affiliate, Denver gym owner Jason Kelly hardly blinked before deciding not to renew his partnership with the fitness brand.

The owner of CrossFit Broadway, at 1025 Acoma St., told his members earlier this month he’d be renaming his gym Broadway Corrective.

“I wouldn’t be able to look my members and even my own family in the eyes and give them a good enough reason to not make this decision. We have a ton of minorities in the gym and my own children are minorities, so it’s not something we stand for,” said Kelly, whose ex-wife is Hispanic.

CrossFit Broadway owner Jason Kelly (Lily O’Neill)

Kelly’s gym is one of at least six locally that have announced they intend to drop their affiliation with CrossFit in the wake of remarks made by CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman about the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

On June 7, Glassman responded to a tweet from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — a research institution involved in Covid-19 case modeling — which stated, “Racism is a public health issue.” Glassman tweeted “It’s FLOYD-19.”

“Your failed model quarantined us and now you’re going to model a solution to racism?” Glassman went on to say. “George Floyd’s brutal murder sparked riots nationally. Quarantine alone is ‘accompanied in every age and under all political regimes by an undercurrent of suspicion, distrust, and riots.’ Thanks!’”

Reebok said it would cut ties with CrossFit following Glassman’s tweet.

BuzzFeed News later reported it obtained a recording of Glassman on June 7 telling gym owners, “We’re not mourning for George Floyd — I don’t think me or any of my staff are.” The company announced Glassman was stepping down hours after that story was published. 

Kelly said affiliates pay a yearly fee, in his case $3,000, to use the CrossFit name, logo and promotional materials. While he is paid through November, he’s rebranding his gym now.

“I’m still trying to understand why somebody that knows we are really struggling would lay this s#*% on top of us; it’s hugely disappointing,” he said, referring to the financial challenges gyms already face due to the coronavirus.

DeCO Fitness owner Leslie Friedman

Leslie Friedman, owner of CrossFit DeCO at 923 W. 9th Ave. in Lincoln Park, is also scrubbing the CrossFit name from her gym, which is now DeCO Fitness. She has been an affiliate since 2012 and will not renew for next year.

“For years, I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of being associated with CrossFit, and ultimately, up until this year I felt it was more beneficial than not,” Friedman said. “But this was the tipping point to cut ties with the brand.” 

“I think I would have lost a significant amount of members if I didn’t drop the affiliation. Our workouts aren’t specific to CrossFit, so nothing besides the way we market ourselves will change.” 

CrossFit has over 15,000 affiliate gyms around the world, in 150 countries, including over 500 in Australia, 6,000 in the United States, and 3,000 in Europe and the United Kingdom, according to its website. 

DeCO Fitness has also chosen to disaffiliate from the CrossFit brand. (Courtesy DeCO Fitness)

There are 23 CrossFit affiliates in Denver, counting those that have said they will drop the brand.

Along with Broadway and DeCO, four other Denver gyms that have announced their disaffiliation with CrossFit are:

Outside city limits in Wheat Ridge, CrossFit Vantage is also changing its name to Vantage Movement.

In a June 8 blog post, Front Range owner John San Filippo said the business “will not continue to give money to a man who’s public actions are so in violation of our values.”

“For members, nothing will change on a day to day basis,” he said. “For our social media, website, and advertising efforts, we will stop using the words CrossFit, and avoid paying HQ for any affiliation fees, certifications, or competitions at an organizational level. Black Lives Matter. An out of touch, stubborn old man does not.”

One local gym, CrossFit Verve at 3545 Larimer St. in RiNo, condemned Glassman’s remarks in an Instagram post. But rather than disaffiliate, the owners wrote that they “plan to do what we have always done throughout the years, talk.”

“We cannot tell you now what the future holds, but we can tell you we want to see things change within CrossFit,” the post reads. “Now it’s our time to figure out how we will be a part of that change.”

Glassman, who still owns CrossFit, issued an apology when he stepped down as CEO. 

“I, CrossFit HQ, and the CrossFit community will not stand for racism,” he said. “I made a mistake by the words I chose yesterday. My heart is deeply saddened by the pain it has caused. It was a mistake, not racist but a mistake.”

Contacted by BusinessDen for comment about the Denver gyms dropping the brand, a CrossFit spokesperson replied, “Thousands of affiliates across the world still recognize that ‘CrossFit’ means community and inclusive fitness.”

Kelly said he’s disappointed in the fitness brand’s response and doesn’t see himself returning as an affiliate anytime soon unless a change is made from within CrossFit. 

“If there was a way for the affiliates to own the company themselves and create a board so we could be in control of our own destiny that would be enticing, but that may be the only thing that could reel me back in,” he said.

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Rich Eyre
Rich Eyre
3 months ago

Wow, Kelly & Friedman!! Oversight & ownership is uber critical @ this moment, to institute a type of civilian review board. And ownership placed in the hands & trust of LOCAL people like Kelly. All it takes for evil to prosper, is for good humans to say & do nothing.

3 months ago

Crossfit Omnia is dropping their affiliation as well.

MD Nelson
MD Nelson
3 months ago

Freedom of speech isn’t free.